It’s September 2020. There are a lot of… Things happening in the world, and as a result, school looks different for a lot of students. Some are completing all of their education virtually for the first time, while others are doing a “hybrid” of online and in-person classes. Even for those who are learning face-to-face have to make accommodations for classmates who aren’t able to do the same.
It’s a very different world. Being in school was already stressful enough, and now we’ve got to deal with this too? I don’t blame you if you’re nervous. And for those who had a challenging adjustment from in-person to online classes last spring, you’re probably wondering how on earth you’re going to manage another semester like this.
I have good news though: It is possible to be a successful student in cyberspace. I’m no expert, but I did attend an online school from when I was six years old until I graduated high school at eighteen, and I think I turned out okay (though my parents may beg to differ). I picked up on a few tricks along the way, and in light of this new and very unique school year starting up, I thought I’d share some of them.
Most people don’t like required reading. Not even English majors. There’s nothing that kills my motivation more than someone handing me a paperback and then telling me I will be graded on my ability to read, comprehend, and analyze the words inside. I love reading. I wish I could do it more often than I do. It’s just that I have the kind of personality where the instant someone tells me something’s required, even if I will probably enjoy that something, I’m determined to dread it.
Actually, I’m not all that sorry, because in sprite of my bad attitude, I have enjoyed a lot of my required reading. At the very least, I’ve only hated one or two books (and generally with good reason, so I don’t feel all that bad). Since school recently started for a lot of us Americans, I thought I’d take some time to talk about the books that make me love being an English major.
I enjoy an academic challenge. If I hate an assignment, it’s usually not because it’s too hard, but because it’s boring or feels meaningless.
The one type of assignment I just can’t bring myself to like, however, are group projects.
If you’ve never had to survive a group project, I envy you. The name is pretty self-explanatory: it’s an assignment that involves collaborating with other students in order to achieve a (usually shared) grade.
On paper, it’s a great idea. After all, knowing how to collaborate with others is a good skill to have – whether or not it’s as important as people say is something I still debate, but that’s besides the point. Knowing how to work with others and bring people with different skill sets together can allow for more productivity in a project. At least, that’s how it should be.
The problem that I’ve encountered is that in my experience, group projects have been more frustrating than educational. I always come away from a group assignment feeling like the final result would have been better if I had done it myself. Part of this is certainly a character flaw of mine, but I think it goes beyond that.
On the other hand, I’ve had many experiences with collaborative projects that have gone very well. I can think back to some group assignments in college that I enjoyed and learned from, as well as from activities outside of an academic setting, like video games and writing. Based on that, I don’t think the problem is so much with group assignments themselves – as I said, they do have their benefits – but rather with how they’re presented.
So, what makes a group project enjoyable and beneficial? (Or, if not enjoyable, at least not terribly frustrating.)